Smarter Homes for Better Health?

Smarter Homes for Better Health?

A confluence of new and less expensive technology resources is transforming a niche market in home automation and remote security into a burst of new smart home devices and capabilities. Drops in the cost of broadband and more intelligent, lower-cost embedded chips are enabling more devices, sensors, appliances, and displays to interact within a mesh of local and public networks.

Applications include the automation of home energy generation and consumption, security monitoring and control, orchestration of entertainment consoles, and systems for healthier homes. Mobile devices are the primary interface to the new smart home in conjunction with smart home services that coordinate the home’s data and functions.

The Apple Watch and HomeKit

The latest mobile interface to your smart home is the Apple Watch, which works as a data display and application control point in conjunction with an iPhone. Depending on the capabilities of specific iOS apps built on HomeKit, the possibilities for monitoring and control within the smart home environment now seem endless.

Changes in “smart home” platforms capable of connecting to your smart devices, such as Lennox HVACs, ADT home security systems, or Ilumi lighting systems, for example, can all be transmitted to your Apple Watch in real-time. HomeKit apps could make autonomous decisions based on contextual data such as time of day, your location, or recent events to adjust the home environment. It probably will not go so far as to greet you at the door with your slippers and a dry martini after a hard day at the office, but it could lower the lights and play soothing music as you settle into your couch.

Apple’s HealthKit

Extensions running on your iPhone, displaying on your Apple Watch and reading data from micro-devices such as wearable or implanted biometric sensors are the concepts behind Apple’s HealthKit. Basic capabilities include reminders to take your medicine or sending you positive affirmations at regular intervals.

Beyond gimmick apps, many companies use or plan to use HealthKit to monitor an individual’s health in real-time. Heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, blood levels of glucose and oxygen, respiratory metrics, and the amount of sleep you get every night are possible inputs taken directly or derived from health telemetry devices.

Combine these data with readings on the environment, such as air quality, temperature and humidity, location, pollen counts and so on, and the right iOS app or backend service can alert you to an unhealthy environment, conditions increasing anxiety levels, or simply action requests meant to inculcate positive health habits.

Connecting Your Health with Your Smart Home

Smart home technology is the Internet of Things on the residential level where intelligent devices and appliances share status and present control interfaces in a seamless, data-driven manner. Health monitoring apps and devices fit this concept at the most personal level where some of the participant devices are actually biological.

Where these two areas overlap, we see the first steps toward a dynamic system that one blogger coined as the “Internet of You.”

What This Means for the Future

Smart home and smart health applications plus new health-related backend services are creating tremendous potential for healthier living that goes well beyond simple convenience and energy savings. This convergence will, for instance, bring more independence to the disabled or housebound individuals. It will assist medical professionals in monitoring physical and cognitive changes that may predict a health crisis.

All of us will benefit from increased awareness of our personal health status and the advantages of healthy lifestyles. Continued increases in device intelligence, more sophisticated sensors and micro-connectivity, as represented by the Apple Watch, ensure all of us enjoy a greener, healthier, and more productive world relevant to our needs.

Contributing Author:

Beth Kelly is a freelance blogger and researcher. In her free time, she likes fixing old cameras and learning to speak new languages. She was born and raised in Michigan but now resides in Chicago, IL. Follow Beth on Twitter.

Cover Photo: “CITIB-LOEWE” by Jan Prucha – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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